So, after 35 years of reading the comic, 17 years after the travesty of the Stallone version and months of anticipation as news and pictures slowly dribbled out on the film, I saw Judge Dredd on screen last night. It was tough, dark, dirty, violent, funny and beautiful in parts, sometimes at the same time. I loved it, the whole cinema cheered at the end and I just wanted to scream, “Judge Dredd, Fuck Yeah!” and punch the air.
There he was on screen, the character from the comic, Karl Urban nailed it, no two ways about it, he IS Dredd. Olivia Thirlby is gorgeous and did a great job as Anderson, being a rookie we’re still to see her character develop but she ends the film a different character to the one she starts it as shall we say? Lena Headey is pitched perfectly as the villain, Ma Ma - straight talking, intimidating and brutal. The script was tight and minimal, the plot was simple and believable and the score was excellent – very electronic, sometimes barely there, blending into the noises and vibrations of the buildings and city. The 3D was good, in some scenes it really made them, in others it was generally unobtrusive but you could watch the whole thing in 2D and not miss much. There were several bits where it really worked and one scene in particular where something was done with it that I’d never seen before in the medium.
For fans it hits all the right buttons, no comedy sidekick, no kisses and no taking off the helmet. There are loads of incidentals tucked away in the background from the block names spelling out famous artists and characters from the comic to graffiti on the walls referencing stories of old in the Dredd world. One of the nicest things (and this isn’t really a spoiler) is that the first names you see as the credits roll, in huge letters, are John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra – the creators of Dredd – before any actor or director credit. Alex Garland has made sure that this is how you please the fans and get them on side to build a fanbase for any possible sequels that could happen if it makes the money at the box office.
*possible minor spoilers bit, but not really*
I’m not a fawning fanboy who can’t see the flaws though, the film isn’t perfect – the lawmaster bike and vehicles in general don’t sit well together. Whilst Dredd’s bike is nothing like the one in the comic, it holds up OK on screen but it looks out of place and time next to all the other vehicles which are just the same as anything you’d see on the road today. My biggest gripe with it was that it didn’t look futuristic enough in the outdoor shots (something the Stallone film actually got right) but these are soon forgotten about as the plot quickly moves indoors. Once you get into the visual groove of the film and accept these things it’s fine and I know that this was shot on a tiny budget compared to other blockbusters and that, had they had the money, this would have been the first thing rectified. There were a few instances where Anderson could have played a more inclusive role in the scenes with her psi powers too, I’m not going to spoil anything though by highlighting them here.
For the budget they had, the film makers nailed it, the tone, the dialogue and the action. I wasn’t expecting 10/10 incredible cinema to blow my mind, but wanted a credible film that did justice to the character and superceded the 1995 one. You get that hands down, it’s perfectly pitched and is winning fans over everywhere. Here’s to a sequel some day in the future if the film turns a healthy profit although they have their work cut out for them with an 18/R rating.
PS. to add to the experience I saw Henry Flint coming out of the screening before me, grinning from ear to ear and saying he was ‘speechless’ after seeing it. This is more than a little unusual seeing as he lives in Devon and I live in London but made it all the more special.